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Environmental damage caused by COVID-19

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The COVID-19 pandemic has aggravated an environmental problem that was already out of control: the heavy production and inappropriate disposal of plastic. A trio of researchers from China and the USA estimated that between the beginning of the novel coronavirus pandemic and August 23 of last year, 193 countries produced 8.4 million tons more plastic than normal. Most (87% of the total) was made for hospital use (photograph). Another 7.6% was used for personal protective equipment (primarily masks), and 4.7% for packaging products purchased online (PNAS, November 23). Of all this extra plastic, about 25,000 tons are expected to end up in the sea, equivalent to 1.5% of what is already dumped into the ocean every year. Using computer modeling, the group, led by Yanxu Zhang, an environmental scientist from Nanjing University in China, calculated that much of this plastic will be found on beaches and in marine sediment within the next three years, as well as in the Arctic Ocean.